Should editors have published Charlie Hebdo cartoons?

charlie-hebdo-cover-paris-shooting-012A resounding yes. Free speech means, as Voltaire famously said, that although I may not agree with everything you say, I will defend to death your right to say it. Charlie Hebdo editors defended to death my right to say something. The only way to honor their lives would be to publish some of their cartoons.

The editors, writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo have spent their lives provoking discussions. About religion, war, poverty, racism, sexism, capitalism – no topic was off-limits. It is fair to say that no one agreed with them all the time. They called their magazine, “Irresponsible Journal” on the title page so that readers would know immediately that they were not above punching below the belt. It was a warning of sorts: open this cover and you will be challenged. Continue reading

Did Der Spiegel censor a columnist?

Gabor Steingart, publisher of Germany’s Handelsblatt buried the lead Monday morning.

After the usual banter in his Morning Briefing, an email sent Monday through Friday to subscribers, highlighting stories in Germany’s foremost economic paper, he charged Der Spiegel editors with censoring a column critical to the weekly magazine’s management.

Without naming sources, Steingart, a former Spiegel reporter, said that Jan Fleischhauer’s “beloved” column Der Schwarze Kanal had been spiked, even though it had been delivered punctually to editors. Continue reading

Is it a stove? A washer? A fridge? No, its Philae

As the world watched in amazement at the landing of Philae on a comet Wednesday, science writers were trying to give sense to a seemingly fantastical event.

The notion is bizarre enough that a spacecraft can fly four billion miles for 10 years to reach a comet that is shaped like a rubber duck. The European Space Agency needed a small spacecraft to land on it, because the larger lobe of the comet (the duck’s body) is only about four kilometers diameter. First, Philae’s weight was an important element in the story of a landing because it needed to deal with the comet’s light gravitational pull and mooring, so in each article, journalists also gave readers the accurate number, 100 kilos (about 220 pounds).

But then they gave a visual clue as to its size. The BBC mentioned Philae, was “about the size of a fridge.” So does NPR. The New York Times said it was “washing-machine-sized,” while the SueddeutscheZeitung called it “cooking-stove-sized.” Refrigerators, washing machines and stoves have very different shapes. So who is right? Continue reading

European journalists cross borders to collaborate

A version of this article appeared first in the Columbia Journalism Review.

When Brigitte Alfter was the European Union correspondent in Brussels for a Danish newspaper a decade ago, the stories she covered were only relevant to her Danish audience. Her sources came primarily from Nordic countries. But to cover the EU from the viewpoint of one country or region often misses crucial context.

“If you want to hold power accountable or to give the entire picture, then we have to go cross-border,” says Alfter, a German-Danish investigative journalist who is writing a book on the topic. Continue reading

What happens if paper and online staff merge? Spiegel journalists say disaster

The journalist guild (known as a Works Council in Germany) at Der Spiegel, Germany’s top news weekly, has warned of an “existential crisis” if management continues with its modernization plan.

Der Spiegel’s editor-in-chief Wolfgang Buechner wants to re-write job descriptions for each post and let both online and print journalists vie anew for each spot. The company also will offer generous buyouts to entice early retirements of older staff.  Bertlesmann, Europe’s publishing giant, recently purchased some 24 percent of its shares. The family of Der Spiegel’s founder owns the remaining stock. Continue reading

Spanish parliament passes “Google Tax”

Starting in January, search engines like Google and aggregators like Reddit or Digg will have to pay a copyright fee to Spanish publishers and authors if they use snippets of text.

The Spanish parliament passed a reform to a copyright law Oct. 29 that is modeled on the one Germany put into place last year. Spain’s new rules also would levy up to 600,000 euro fines for illegal downloading and allows for stricter Internet surveillance to protect intellectual property. Continue reading

Documenting the economic decline of Syria

An earlier version of this story first appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review. Read it here.

In weekly dispatches, readers of The Syria Report have been able to track the implosion of the war-torn country in numbers.

In 2011, a few months into the uprising that now has killed nearly 200,000 people, the news site led with “Central Bank to Stop Forex Auctions as Pound Slips Further.”

Nowadays, the newsletter describes a more dire picture of the country in the style of train station announcer: “Syria’s Exports Decline 90 Percent over Four Years.”

“I am neutral because everything around me is not neutral,” said Jihad Yazigi, a French passport holder who has been editing the economic news site for 13 years. Continue reading

Leistungsschutzrecht – Lex Google

  1. Germany’s Legal Affairs committee approved Wednesday a bill that would require news aggregators to pay for the right to use original content published by newspapers on their websites. The bill would only affect commercial use.

    The bill, known as LSR, will now go to parliament on Friday for its second and third reading. From the accounts, the committee vote was strictly along party lines. What won the day for the publishers was a Tuesday night agreement to water down the legislation so that it narrowly defines what can and cannot be used. New wording won the votes of a handful of parliamentarians who previously opposed LSR.The debate is being closely watched, because many publishers within the European Union said they, too, would propose similar legislation in their countries.

    The committee meeting was closed to the public, but many members of the German parliament tweeted proceedings. Here is a curation of the debate. Note that the Twitter-sphere was nearly 100 percent against the bill. Opponents believe the new regulation would hinder innovation on the Net and say it would create a cumbersome bureaucracy.

  2. @ManuelHoeferlin Damit gehen Verlage in D komplett leer aus. Besser kein #LSR und dafür Geld von google wie in FR.
  3. The publishers in Germany will end with nothing. Better no #LSR and instead get money from Google as in France.
  4. Der #LSR-Entwurf ist ein prima Beispiel für Bad Governance.
  5. The #LSR proposal is a prime example of bad governance.
  6. Siegfried Kauder (head of the Legal Affairs Committee) will vote in favor of #LSR
    Jimmy Schulz is a member of the FDP, a junior member of the ruling coalition
  7. @TiloJung @petertauber Nein. Ich hatte gesagt zwei haben in der Fraktion dagegen gestimmt. Was am Freitag sein wird, wird man sehen.
  8. I said, two of us in the coalition voted against it. We’ll have to see what happens on Friday,
    Dorothee Baer is General Secretary of the ruling CSU party
  9. #lsr im Rechtsausschuss mit dem wichtigen Änd.Antrag d Koalition beschlossen. Meine Vorschläge umgesetzt. Ich stimme zu; Blog folgt.
  10. #LSR in Legal Affairs with the important changes requested by the coalition is decided. My proposals were accepted. I vote yes. Blog follows soon.
    – Manuel Hoeferlin is a member of FDP
  11. abstimmung #lsr im #rechtsausschuss: zustimmung regierungsfraktionen, gegenstimmen opposition
  12. Vote #LSR in the #LegalAffairs committee: Ayes: government factions. Nays: Opposition
    Halina Wawzynial is a member of the opposition Linke (Left) Party
  13. Manuel Hoeferlin explains why he will vote for #LSR
  14. Inhaltliche Debatte im Rechtsausschuss zum #LSR dauert an.
  15. Debate in Legal Affairs Committee on #LSR continues
    — Konstantin von Notz is a member of the opposition Green Party
  16. argument s. kauder: notifizierungsverfahren kann nachgeholt werden. bis dahin nicht anwendbar. #lsr
  17. Argument of S. Kauder: Notification can be repeated. Until then not useable. #LSR
    (Siegfried Kauder chairs  the Legal Affairs Committee)
  18. Im Rechtsausschuss wird Vertagungsantrag und weitere Anhörung für #LSR mit Stimmen von Union und FDP abgelehnt
  19. In the Legal Affairs Committee our request for a further hearing on #LSR denied by votes from CDU and FDP
  20. vertagung #lsr abgelehnt. weitere anhörung zu #lsr abgelehnt. opposition wird go-ausschuss anrufen.
  21. Postponement of #LSR denied. Extra hearing to #LSR denied. Opposition will be called go committee
    Halina Wawzynial is a member of the opposition Linke (Left) Party
  22. im Rechtsausschuss brotlose Debatten der Opposition um neue Anhörung zum #LSR, Geschäftsordnung des #Bundestag eindeutig
  23. In Legal Affairs committee impoverished  debate by opposition around new hearing for #LSR, rules of debate for the Bundestag are clear
    — Marco Wanderwitz is a member of the ruling CDU/CSU coalition
  24. Jetzt #LSR Thema im Rechtsausschuss. Wir wollen eine erneute Anhörung vor einer Abstimmung im Bundestag.
  25. #LSR now on the agenda of the Legal Affairs Committee. We want a new hearing before the vote in parliament.
    von Notz is a member of the Green Party

Continue reading

#LSR – Lex Google – German parliament hearing to be blogged and tweeted live

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung announced it will be blogging live from Berlin at the Legal Affairs committee hearing on a proposed copyright law that would protect original news articles from being re-used for profit.

The Humboldt Law Center on Internet Rights will be tweeting the hearings live under #LSR. Both the Sueddeutsche Zeitung blog and the Humboldt tweets will be in German. Behindneweyes (Alangleyshields) will occasionally be re-tweeting translations of the Humboldt tweets.

Leistungsschutzrecht, LSR, has also taken on the unofficial title of Lex Google, because the bill targets aggregators like Google from using news articles to generate profit. (see stories below). Private use would not be affected.

News publishers are asking parliament to pass the bill as a way to gain back revenues lost to the Internet. Social media groups like Google and Yahoo! are fighting hard against it.


German Lawmakers set to hear the pros and cons of aggregator law

A day before the German parliamentary committee is set to hear testimony about a proposed copyright law, social media in Germany is buzzing.

The bill would create a new type of copyright called Leistungsschutzrecht, called LSR, to protect news articles. Aggregators and search engines, like Google, would be required to pay for the right to use original content generated from newspapers and bloggers if the aggregators gain commercially from the use. Private, non-commercial use would not be affected. Continue reading